Winter must have found us. After escaping the chilly grasp of winter for quite a while, we stumbled several weeks ago and have been captured. What we are hoping for now is that it passes quickly.
The seasonably cold weather of the past several weeks has dropped the water temperatures quickly to the low 50's, which is much closer to normal for late January. Some catches of fish that had been biting so well have slowed, but the bite has not stopped completely. The thoughts are that some of our winter fish may still arrive and take up some of the slack.
The cold will be staying with us for at least another week. The coastal highs for Saturday and Sunday make it into the 50's, but will be framed with 40's on both ends. A hard freeze isn't forecast, but the night time lows will be hovering just above freezing.
The upcoming weekend is forecast to be fairly windy. We are coming off a gale warning Friday morning and dropping to around 20 knots by nightfall. Saturday and Monday will be around 20 knots also, with a nicer wind day on Sunday, with several spots forecast to range between 10 and 15 knots. The chances for rain aren't high, but it still might be a good weekend to be indoors.
While the winds and temperatures haven't been the best for fishing, a few anglers are out and have reported some scattered decent catches.
The bluefin tuna bite continued to be scattered. Several fishermen said the cooler water and weather should get the fish moving and feeding better and they and the Tag-A-Giant (TAG) crew are counting on it. Only a couple of bluefins were caught last week, but they were larger fish.
If you, like me, missed it, I was told that the TAG crew presented a very informative program Tuesday night on the life cycles of tuna they have tracked through archival and pop-off tags.
The TAG crew has been working off Cape Lookout for the past week, but without much success. They are monitoring the VHF radio and would like to be notified of any large fish in the area that will be released. The TAG team is continuing their research of these fish and need larger adults to fit with electronic tagging devices.
The General Category (commercial) season for bluefin tunas ends at midnight on Tuesday (1-31-07). Boats with General Category permits may continue to fish as catch-and-release only, while the Angling Category (recreational) season remains open and permitted boats may keep two bluefins per day between 47 and 72 inches and one per year over 73 inches. No Angling Category bluefins may be sold.
Perhaps the dropping water temperatures are already luring the stripers back along N.C. beaches. Fishermen at Oregon Inlet and along the Northern Outer Banks reported improving striper catches this week. They believe the bulk of the stripers are still to the north, but have begun moving back down the coast with the falling water temperatures.
The inshore striper bite has been pretty good for several weeks. One of the hot spots is Manns Harbor. There have also been inshore stripers caught in the Tar/Pamlico River around Washington, the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern and the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers around Wilmington.
The couple of days the weather allowed moving offshore, there were good king mackerel bites off Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. The kings were holding around the 210 and 240 Rocks off Cape Lookout, with a few also being caught at West Rock. The many ledges, rocks and wrecks around Frying Pan Tower were the hot spots off Cape Fear.
The trout and red drum adapted to the cooler water pretty quickly. There were surprisingly many reports of good catches for this time of year. The reports came from inshore creeks and marshes, plus through the inlets and along the beaches. Several really big schools of drum were reported.
More flounder catches were reported again last week, but this time the great majority of the reports were from fishermen targeting them at the nearshore rocks and wrecks in the ocean and by surprised black sea bass fishermen.
I received a few more reports of false albacore this week, but they were from surf fishermen at Ocracoke and Cape Hatteras. Who knows? I sure don't--I just report it.
Once again, there weren't many offshore reports last week, but a few wahoo, and mixed tuna were caught south of the Big Rock and at the Steeples. Several days there were good catches of yellowfins off Oregon Inlet.
Offshore bottom fishing just keeps hanging in there. The fish have moved to just a little deeper water, but there were good catches of sea bass, grunts, beeliners and grouper reported all along the coast.
There are two boat shows in N.C. this weekend. The Raleigh Convention Center Boat Show (www.raleighconvention.com/boatshow) will be held at 3401 Gresham Lake Road while construction continues on the convention center and the Down East Boat Show will be held at the Senator Bob Martin Agricultural Center in Williamston.